There’s something reassuringly familiar about the seasons and the fact that they change just like, well, the seasons. It’s a reminder that nothing stays forever, whether you’re going through good times or challenging ones.
There are a lot of things that feel familiar when we move into a new season, and for me, especially when we move into autumn, my favourite season. The changing leaves, the crisp mornings and chilled evenings, the first hint of chimney smoke, the cinnamon and nutmeg that is in approximately everything, and the dark creeping inwards on both sides of my days.
Also familiar for me is the mounting anxiety of feeling like I’m falling behind before the season has even officially started. The equinox is still a week off and yet, I feel a familiar cycle of overwhelm knocking at my door.
And I’m not just talking about somehow fitting in pumpkin patches and watching cozy movies beneath blankets while sipping hot apple cider. I’m not overwhelmed by all the fun stuff I want to do this fall, although it definitely adds to the pressure.
I’m talking about how I notice that I, along with a whole lot of other folks, seem to be in a predictable state of feeling stressed out come the end of summer/beginning of fall.
There seems to be a feeling of urgency to the dying days of summer. If I didn’t fit in all the fun-tivities and chores I was hoping to accomplish over the summer months, then I’m either left mourning the missed opportunities, feeling guilty for not getting to them, or frantically trying to jam them all in before the weather changes.
I’m also faced with a brand-new list of tasks, chores, activities and responsibilities that goes along with the beginning of autumn.
So not only am I trying—usually unsuccessfully, or at least unenjoyably—to shove my way through the leftover list of summer to-dos, but also cramming it all on top of the new list of what I want and need to accomplish moving forward. I tend to get grumpy, short and forgetful. Everything I try to do requires four extra steps and a whole lot of swearing and fuming.
It’s a real treat for everyone.
So, hey, if you’re also feeling overwhelmed, I’m calling it like I see it: Fall can be overwhelming for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons.
Maybe you have kids who are heading back to school. Maybe you are heading back to school. Oh jeez, maybe your kids are heading back to school and so are you, too. Ooof. If this is you, then hats off to you, good luck and godspeed.
Maybe you’re starting a new job or a new project. Hello, expectations and requirements and capacity changes.
Maybe you’re also trying to take advantage of the dog days of sunshine and cram in the last of All The Awesome Fun Summery Things before the weather changes. Or maybe All The Meant-To-Do-Earlier-This-Summer chores. Maybe both?
You’ve probably also got a brand-new list of to-dos for this coming season, from the fun stuff (pumpkin patches!) to the tedious adulting stuff (cleaning gutters!). Either way, it’s tricky to start the new list when you’re still working on the old one.
Maybe you feel like you’re running out of time.
Here’s the thing: you’re not entirely making it up: the days are getting shorter. And depending on where you live, you might still have daylight savings to contend with, like we do.
So while you still have 24 hours each day just like always, the encroaching darkness might make you feel like you’ve got less functional time at your disposal. Science shows us that the shorter, darker days have an impact on our physiology.
Whether or not you’re aware of what your needs are when it comes to how you cope with reduced daylight and the impact of less daylight on your circadian rhythms, it’s having an impact on your mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, nonetheless.
We’re winding down into winter, as this year draws closer to an end. There are less squares on this year’s calendar and it keeps dwindling. All that stuff you thought you’d do this year might be looking less likely and you might have—wait for it—FEELINGS about it.
Maybe you’re busy beating yourself up for not getting enough done, so you wind up feeling guilty and ashamed on top of stressed out and overwhelmed.
Maybe you try to push through and overcome the stress and overwhelm, cutting into your well-being. It’s easy to try to carve out extra time from the places that feel like a luxury, or a nice-to-have, like sleep, rest, downtime and exercise.
When we’re stressed out and overwhelmed, it feels like the last thing we should do, or have time to do, or have the right to do is get some exercise, get outside and get some sleep. But carving out from your foundation is not a great idea. Tends to make a house topple over…
For muddy water to clear, it needs to be still. Same goes for me and you.
So rather than buckling down and shoving through what you’re feeling, I suggest this instead:
Make two lists. One list for what needs to be done, and another list for what you want to do. Give the items a deadline and build a timeline back from there, breaking the tasks down into embarrassingly-but-actually-doable small steps. Put them on your calendar. Look at your calendar frequently (every day is a great idea).
Give yourself the spacious freedom of knowing what actually needs to be done today, as opposed to shouldering the weight of everything that needs to be done, ever.
Ask yourself how you want to FEEL this season. Then think about what would help you to feel that way.
Look inward at your well-being and get really honest about how it’s going. Get clear on any health and well-being goals you have, and create a routine that gets you there using small incremental changes.
Get more sleep. Get cosy and relax. Eat good food. Go outside. Let your routines create the freedom that all your hectic scurrying makes impossible.
Everything that grows uses this season to rest, recover and replenish. So can you.